Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interesting Phone Call of the Day

Sometimes, you just never know what to expect when you answer the phone at church.  Today provided an excellent example.

I answered the phone and the caller asked if I could look up a bible verse for him.  Now, this isn't an unusual request.  I have looked up verses for people on several occasions. Usually, they give me a topic or a few key words they know are in the specific verse they want and I find it.

This caller had the reference (Psalm 25:4), but wanted to know what that verse said.  So going to trustworthy BibleGateway, I find the words to pass on.  When I had done so, he filled me in on why he wanted to know.  He was wearing an old VBS T-shirt that had that reference on it, and he wanted to be able to answer any question that might come up in conversation about the shirt.  He, being a Gideon, usually has several bibles in his vehicle, but today was empty-handed.  I asked him which VBS that shirt was from and he couldn't remember the theme (the big picture with the name was on his back, which he couldn't see).  I asked him what color it was.  "Black," he replied.  I have shirts for VBS going back almost a decade.  There has been only one black shirt in all that time:  Ramblin' Road Trip, 2005.  (It's amazing what church ladies remember and for the most absurd reasons!)

Notice the connection between the "ways" and "paths" from the verse and the "road" from the theme.  The verse was very familiar to me for a much more recent reason.  This year's VBS at Agricola Baptist was "Inside Out and Upside Down on Main Street."  The memory verse for the week was Psalm 25:4-5.

Our shirts were red this year, by the way, which is a good thing.  My youngest daughter El is currently attending a camp that assigned her to the red team.  I don't know if you have noticed, but there is just not a lot of red clothing in stores this year.  In fact, almost none at all that doesn't reference the 4th of July with fireworks or flags.  And she wanted red clothes to wear this week.  Yes, her VBS shirt is packed.

So now I have an absurd reason to remember that VBS 2011 had a red shirt...

...just in case anyone ever asks.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting a Handle on Your Wallet

I saw a post a few weeks ago by a young friend of mine, recently graduated from college.  In it, there was a link to a personal budget spreadsheet.  Being the financial record keeper of my household as well my church, I have an interest in these things.  I decided to check it out.  It was a basic budget with income and basic expenses like rent and utilities.

It got me to thinking about when Mr. H and I were first starting out.  I learned to tithe.  I learned (the hard way) that some expenses come up only once a year, but that one time always comes as a surprise.  It took a decade before I was comfortable with the flow of our finances!

One day all that changed.  A friend and her husband were teaching a couple's Sunday night break-out group at church.  They showed us a budget they had set up for their son, a young adult with his first real job.  It was broken down by weeks:  first week -pay rent and buy groceries; 2nd week -set aside $100 towards next week's car payment and buy groceries; 3rd week - use last week's $100 and this week's check to pay car payment and buy groceries.... you get the idea.

I took that idea to my checkbook register.  I knew how much was coming in every week.  I paid attention to the due dates on all our regular expenses.  I assigned certain bills to specific pay checks: Mortgage to the last paycheck (in case the first paycheck of the month didn't come until the 6th or 7th day of the month!)  Electric bill to the 3rd paycheck, car payment to the 2nd paycheck.  I was stunned at the freedom I felt!  I knew that if nothing unexpected came up, certain bills would always be covered by certain paychecks.

I've heard people say that they don't want the restrictions of living on a budget.  I think they've got the wrong idea about what a budget is.  It's not a set of rules.  It's more like a map.  And unless you have unlimited access to a vast pool of cash, you are on a budget:  you're just ignoring the fact.  Only so much comes in and therefore,  only so much can go out.  You're much better off knowing where it's going.

To help with getting a handle on all the comings and goings of your dollars, I'd like to offer a form to get you started.  If you're familiar with spreadsheet programs, you can download it as an Excel or Open Office file and put your own numbers in (click File, Download as, and pick your format.)  If your computer skills are limited to read-only, get yourself a notebook and a calculator and write it out by hand.  Yes, it will take a while, but believe me, you'll feel better when you can see it all together!

Monday, July 4, 2011


I think tonight is the first time I will have gone to see 4th of July fireworks since 2007.  That year my mom came to spend some time with us and we all went up to Lucedale to see the big display.

What a difference a year makes...

The following year, we had just returned home from her funeral on the 4th and I was not in the mood for celebrating.  The girls made plans to go without me.  I was fine with that (or as fine as I was going to get for a while.)  I'm not sure what I was doing on the 4th in 2009, but I'm pretty sure it didn't include the fireworks display.

Last year, all my girls went up to Starkville and spent the 4th with school friends of the eldest.  Mr. H and I stayed home and enjoyed the time alone.

This year, I think I'm ready.  But I can already feel the sorrow creeping up on me.  I still remember that last Independence Day I shared with her.  It's amazing how that feeling of loss will stab you sharply when you least expect it.